50mm Landscape Photography: Such a Viable Option

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Yup.  What I want you to do right now is to forget everything you’ve heard or assumed about wide (or ultra-wide) landscape photography.  Not the idea that you shouldn’t use it, but the idea that they’re the only option for landscape photos…

You need to consider a 50mm for landscape photography.

Why?

Well, that’s what we’re going to discuss in this article.  We will start with the benefits of using a 50mm and conclude with some techniques and challenges.  

It’s going to be a great read filled with information. It'll either convince you that 50mm landscape photography is viable or improve what you’re currently taking.

Let’s get started with benefits!

Benefits to using a 50mm for landscape photography

You may be one of many that consider a 50mm far from a landscape lens.  

Most photographers immediately choose either a wide angle (24mm) or ultra-wide (16mm) lens to shoot landscapes.  Those who are fortunate enough to own a high end wide angle zoom (16-35mm) have the benefits of both.

Nothing is wrong with using wide or ultra wide lenses for landscape photography.  They’re used by so many for a reason, they take incredible photos.

This image was taken at 24mm

Then is  50mm the best landscape photography lens?

Now, that's very subjective.  But...

What I’m saying is 50mm may be all you need to take landscape photos that work better with your style.  If anything, a 50mm would be another creative outlet to create landscape photos from a different perspective.

But, there are some distinct benefits to using a 50mm for landscape photos.  These include:

  • Prime lens (sharper than zoom lenses)
  • Compression is more significant than a wide or ultra-wide
  • New creative process (and possibilities)
  • Inexpensive compared to high end zooms
  • Perfect travel lens (subjective)

A sharper image

50mm Landscape Photography

Notice how the image on the right is significantly sharper?  That's because it's a zoom lens (one on the left is a prime).

With a 50mm being a prime lens (it doesn’t zoom), you’ll get a sharper photo than that of a zoom lens.  There are less elements and moving parts in a prime lens.  This directly affects the sharpness of your image.  Your image will look cleaner and have more detail than a lens that isn’t as sharp.  Everyone wants sharp landscape photos!

Compression is a huge benefit

50mm Landscape Photography

Notice the compression in the building in the background.  It's significant between 24mm and 50mm (and beyond)

Compression is another benefit of using a 50mm versus a wide angle (or ultra-wide) lens.  Your background and foreground will seem much larger than that of a wide angle lens.  

This is a great benefit when you want to emphasize a mountain or interesting object in your background (or foreground).  If you want a mountain to look grand in your photo, compression is what accomplishes that.

50mm Landscape Photography

Think of it as “squishing” your background and fore-ground together.  You’ll get this benefit immediately when you put this lens on your camera.  This can add so much creativity to your photos!

Expand your creative process!

50mm Landscape Photography

A new creative process is a great benefit for anyone really.  Doing the same ol’ thing all the time doesn’t allow you to grow.  50mm landscape photography could be what you need to spark that creative process again.  

Not only that, once you do it for a while, you’ll have that skill set in the bag and the ability to use it whenever you desire!

Consider it for travel photography

I recommend this lens to those who travel often.  It adds great benefits (what we’ve talked about already) as well as portability.  You can throw this in a travel bag and it isn’t going to take up that much room.  Or, you could leave it on your camera and pull it out when you need to take a quick photo!

On top of all that - it's inexpensive!

The cost being a benefit is quite obvious.  The Canon 50mm f/1.8 is very affordable.  Nikon and Sony have very affordable versions as well.  Who knows, you may be one that has it sitting in your bag right now!

50mm landscape photography techniques

Do not think there is something special about the way you take a landscape photo with a 50mm lens.

Your composition, time of day, subject, etc. is no different than using a wide angle lens.

The only thing that’s different (and allows for much more creativity) is your framing and position while taking the photo.

You’ll need to pick and choose a bit more.  

You’re essentially taking a more “detailed” landscape photo. You’re eliminating some of the real estate to the left and right (assuming you’re shooting in landscape format) - while adding more emphasis on a specific area of a scene.

This requires a bit more thought than a wide angle lens (even more than a ultra-wide) lens, in my opinion.

My technique for this “process” is taking a photo with my Iphone XR.  It has a lens on it that’s roughly 24mm.  I’ll look at it and zoom in slightly.  I’ll then move around the screen, essentially framing what a 50mm lens would look like.  

This is a technique and process that takes a few times to get the hang of.  But when you do, you can save yourself a lot of headache and setup time in the long-run.

I will update this section as I develop more techniques with this lens.

50mm landscape settings

You’ll notice right off the bat, there isn’t much difference between 50mm landscape photos and wide angle photos when it comes to settings.

You’ll want your aperture between f/8 and f/11.  F/11 is considered the sweet spot by a lot of landscape photographers.  This will ensure that you’re getting as much of the landscape in focus when shooting.  Your images will be their sharpest at f/11 (or right around it).

Adjust shutter speed and ISO accordingly.  

If you want to take long exposure shots - checkout the second video below.  You'll need an ND filter to take full advantage of long exposure.

That’s it, really.  There isn’t anything difficult when it comes to settings.  It’s the same work-flow as a wide angle lens.   If you haven’t taken landscape photos with any lens before, take a look at the video below!

Prime lenses are king (zooms are queen)

We’ve talked about this already in this article, but I can’t emphasize this enough.

For starters, you’ll get sharper images from edge to edge compared to a zoom lens.  This is essential if you’re putting focus on texture in your landscape photos.  You’ll achieve greater detail as well.  This is a huge advantage if you crop your images.

It requires you to move.  You have to either move closer or further away to readjust your composition.  Each time you move, you have the chance of seeing your shot in a different perspective.  

I’ve stumbled across compositions I didn’t see originally only because I had to move my camera.  This is something you wouldn’t have to do with a zoom and you leave the possibility of missing a better shot because of it.

Conclusion

50mm landscape photography isn’t for everyone.  But you won’t know the answer to that unless you try it.  And not once or twice.  But over a significant amount of “attempts”.  Who knows, it could grow on you… Join the small club of 50mm landscape photographers and show those portrait and street photographers a thing or two!

Regardless, the look of 50mm landscape is unique and very affordable.  There isn’t a lens on the market that can give you these results at this cost.

Pull the trigger and give it a shot.  If you already shoot landscapes at this focal length, continue!  

Until next time…

Well, I hope you learned a thing or two from this article.  It wasn’t technical by any means.  But I hope it opened your eyes to the possibilities of landscape photography at this focal length.

You now know the settings you should be using, as well as the benefits and results from using this lens.  I hope you use this information constructively going forward!

As always, thank you so much for reading.  Let me know your thoughts and any photos of your own in the comments below!

Until next time, keep shooting and creating!

Jeff

I have been taking photos and film since I was a child. Now that I'm in my mid 30's, I want to share with the world what I have learned over the years. I attempt to live every day to the fullest and share that with you through my blog. I am an electrician by trade and photo and video lie within the "hobby" aspect of my life at the moment. It's what I'm truly passionate about.
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